Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey

        Words take on strange faces in this place. Conversation condenses and drips back into your drink. Tomorrow is another city. This is The Murder Bar, where the barman knows what I drink and it is always happy hour.  The monkey brought me here first, and now I am a regular.
        Every time I peek through my fusewire fingers that monkey is there, staring sideways with eyes like bags of death. Lobster Monkey, claws-for-thumbs, slides its tail into my armpit. In and out. I had Wellington boots like frogs when I was young, and the monkey dipped its fez in blood, the tassel braided from my baby hair. Before that, in lux perpetua, it sat amongst the scabby stars like a heron, its tail wrapped about in ribbons. Some trees have cages inside them, rhododendrons and the grabbing hollies. The monkey pinches me with its feet that move like hands, monkey toes like killer's gloves.  Mantailed monkey sews seeds in my sweat, so I wake every morning crawling with moss and crying like the rain.
        The first act on The Murder Bar's sticky stage this evening is a pretty little thing. Her skin steams under the spotlight. Rigid, she is spread like butter, or Christ.  I am squirming on my barstool with her scent in my eyes. I hold an ice cube in my palm and feel the sharp pain as it melts and trickles to the dark-stained floor. Insects start to seethe beneath her skin and they push the hairs out of her body and crawl out through the holes, pale moths that trace her bald skin with icing sugar. Her lips crack and howl. Hooks drag her, vines split her, the barman gives me my change. I look into my hand and he's given me a tiny box, its lid hinged with beetle's wings.  The girl's voice is solid now, lumps of sound chewy with phlegm. Chunks slide out of her open mouth, get caught on the bolts in her nipples, slide lower, the heavy fluid stinging the meat.  I tip the barman and he takes my advice.
        In my house I have a lamp in the shape of a fat toad. The thing's back and head are made from metal, but its stomach is bulging mottled glass, dirty amber and brown. The light shines through the fat toad's belly and lights up my life. When I'm not in The Murder Bar I live in my bed and I sleep with my boots on, because you never know when you might have to get up in the middle of the night to kick something to death.  When I was a little girl I wanted to be a saint. I would sit on the hill under the glassy night, eating stolen fig biscuits and slitting the tender skin on the inside of my eyelids so the blood would mix with the stinging tears and fall red and close to god. Now I go to The Murder Bar to eat inappropriate meat and there they all call me Mercy, even though I may not be a Saint.
        That monkey can move quite quickly, you know.  I could never outrun it. It made me slow.  When it first reached up and curled its tail around the bars of my cot, it made everything sleepy and secret.  I remember that night.  With my head on one side I saw its fez first, and then its eyes rising like cloaked suns over the horizon of my mattress, lethal eyes, narcotic and unswerving.  I stared at it and its pupils narrowed, wormholes closing in jaundiced galaxies.  I remember clearly reaching out and taking its paw in mine. 
        The floor in The Murder Bar is made out of thick glass, and I am frightened of fish but they swim beneath it, muscular and writhing black, with whiskery  lips and markings on their heads like children's faces. This is the place that I run to when I need to see some pain, and little girls spiral from the ceiling wrapped up in bolts of sticky velvets to land amongst the pale butterflies that haunt the booths. The place is pungent with spiced tobacco and death sweat. Lloyd is the barman here - Lloyd the nippleless, Lloyd of the extra knuckles and the globular black eyes that make me thing of whelks.  I went for a walk today, he tells me as I am sitting at the bar smoking, nursing a drink like melted silver and breathing in the blood and smoke stink of my fingers. Went up to the hills to look down, he continues, and there is a raven near to me that keeps on looking. What did you do up there, I ask him, because I really do want to know. I stood on a rock, he answers, and opened my arms like Christ on the cross. And? I ask. And you can see my house from there, says Lloyd, and goes to serve a goatfooted thing that is clamouring for another drink.
        When I take the monkey out with me, every time it catches askance eyes, its own grow bolder, its pupils swelling to culverts.  When I was a little girl, it told me that it stole strangers' eyes to make its own that way, and closed them, as if it were putting them to bed. 
        When the monkey finally arrives Lloyd is getting the stage ready for the next act, polishing the chrome on the fiendish machines and coiling up the ropes. The monkey serves itself with a long black drink. It sits before me and as I look into its hooded eyes I can feel its tail curling around my leg, teasing the edge of my tutu, wiping away the sweat from my skin.  As we drain our drinks, Lloyd leaves the stage and the show begins with a dull chant like the sound of toads and a bubble that bursts and reveals a girl I used to know. She is laminated and bound with wool, her sight obscured by a mask of bees. The stage seems to telescope around her and hands reach down from the roof to tickle her and nip her flesh until she begins to laugh and laugh and the bees crawl into her mouth. As she chokes and giggles and dies, the monkey slides his tail into me, into the tightest part of me, and I grip the bar and close my eyes and my screams hold hands with hers. 
        When it's closing time and I am back in my bed, the monkey is still there, perched on my pillow.  As the pain it gave me fades I gather it into my arms and entwine its tail with mine.

by Jodie Daber